Folic Acid - It's Never Too Early
by News Canada  
folic acid must be taken prior to conception because neural tube defects occur in the
first four weeks of pregnancy - before most women even know they are pregnant.
And, since many pregnancies are unplanned, it is important for all women who could
become pregnant to take a daily multivitamin containing a minimum of 0.4 mg of folic
acid and to eat foods high in folic acid.

"The information on folic acid and its benefits is not new," says Anne Pastuszak,
spokesperson for the Alliance and former Director of The Fetal Centre at the Hospital
for Sick Children. "In fact, the issue has been around for 12 years now."

So, why don't more women know about folic acid? A recent Ipsos-Reid survey
conducted among Ontario women between the ages of 18 and 40 years old, on
behalf of the FAAO, found that while 80 percent of women have heard of folic acid,
only 38 percent of women understand that folic acid must be taken before
conception to help reduce the risk of NTDs. In fact, 41 percent of women had not
heard of neural tube defects and only 42 percent understand that folic acid may
reduce the risk of having a baby born with NTDs like spina bifida.

One in 1,300 total births in Canada are affected by a neural tube defect. Women can
reduce their risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, by taking folic acid before
getting pregnant.

All women who could become pregnant should be taking a daily multivitamin
containing a minimum of 0.4 mg of folic acid. However, more than half of Ontario
women between the ages of 18 and 40 years old do not take a daily multi-vitamin.
Of the 43 percent who do take a multivitamin, only 76 percent take a multivitamin
containing folic acid. In fact, 58 percent of women don't know how much folic acid
they should consume daily. Women should also eat foods high in folic acid such as
broccoli, spinach, orange juice and sunflower seeds, as well as foods fortified with
folic acid, such as white flour, cereals and pasta.

"It's obvious that there is a great opportunity to educate women about the benefits
of folic acid," says Pastuszak. "Over the next few months women across Ontario will
see ads in magazines, buses and subways, information in their doctor's offices and
pharmacies, as well as a web site -

Founding members of the Folic Acid Alliance of Ontario include: The Easter Seal
Society of Ontario, The Fetal Centre at The Hospital for Sick Children, The Spina Bifida
and Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario, Best Start: Ontario's Maternal, Newborn
and Early Child Development Resource Centre and The Ontario Society of Nutrition
Professionals in Public Health. The member organizations came together in 1996
because they shared an interest in promoting the benefits of folic acid in preventing
neural tube defects.

Editors: These articles are for use in Ontario only

About The Author

News Canada provides a wide selection of current, ready-to-use copyright free news
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NC services.
(NC)-The Folic Acid Alliance of
Ontario (FAAO) has launched its
first-ever, province-wide
campaign to promote the
awareness of folic acid and its
benefits in helping to prevent
birth defects.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is
essential for the healthy
development of a baby's spine,
brain and skull. If taken prior to
conception, it can reduce the risk
of having a baby with a neural
tube defect (NTDs), by as much
as 70 percent. To be effective,
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